The following is an interview with Denver Post bestselling writer Joshua Viola regarding the Kickstarter campaign launch for the comic book mini-series, True Believers, in collaboration with Hex Publishers. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Viola about the story’s examination of toxic fandom, what readers may take away from its themes, the incredible backer rewards available through the campaign, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the launch of your Kickstarter campaign for True Believers! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise?
Joshua Viola: Thank you! True Believers is a meta-horror comic I wrote and created with Stephen Graham Jones (IDW’s Earthdivers) set at the actual Colorado Festival of Horror, centering on characters Rip and Kit. Both fervently adore the fictional slasher, Killr™, and proudly identify as “true believers” of the franchise. As they attend the convention, they encounter other Killr™ cosplayers, sparking a question of what it truly means to be a fan. The story delves into the idea that failing to take the character as seriously as they do may have grave consequences.
BD: The series offers a chilling take on fandom and fan convention, as well as the lengths that fans may go when wrapped up in the parasocial relationships that they develop with their favorite characters. What can you share with us about the genesis behind this commentary?
JV: When we chose to take a meta-approach by setting the story at COFOH, we recognized the need to justify why a slasher would emerge at a convention. Both Stephen and I have substantial convention experience and share a deep appreciation for various intellectual properties, granting us insight into the essence of loyal fanbases. Nevertheless, we couldn’t ignore the ever-present phenomenon of toxic fandom that thrives online. What if we were to portray the in-person manifestation of this behavior? What occurs in the minds of those who elevate their devotion to a character to cult-like extremes, believing they alone truly “comprehend” the character, with everyone else deemed as blasphemers? This is the core theme of True Believers.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life alongside co-writer/co-creator Stephen Graham Jones and artist Ben Matsuya?
JV: Having previously collaborated separately with Stephen and Ben, I was confident that our partnership on this project would be seamless. Our shared enthusiasm for comics, horror, and, of course, storytelling, made it feel a bit like fate. What intrigued me the most was the creative process. My history with Stephen spans about a decade, mainly focused on publishing and editing his short prose stories. In my work with Ben, I was involved in writing and managing a comic/video game tie-in. When the three of us joined forces for True Believers, I had the opportunity to observe Stephen’s approach to writing comics, which differed significantly from my own. It was a lot of fun exploring this new perspective.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Rip and Kit’s story may connect with and impact readers?
JV: First, I want to express my admiration for your Stories Matter initiative—it’s genuinely remarkable. I appreciate the emphasis on recognizing that storytelling is ingrained in our DNA. It’s reassuring to know there’s a platform out there that truly values the art, beyond just the clicks. So, thank you for that.
True Believers embraces a transmedia approach. We have a genuine meta-narrative where the comic unfolds within an event that readers can become a part of in real life. Additionally, there’s the soundtrack, intricately tied to our characters. They listen to the same playlist we offer as a CD soundtrack, intimately linking readers to the narrative. Given that this story revolves around cosplay and fandom, particularly centered on our slasher character Killr™, we’re providing latex masks for fans to wear at their favorite conventions. In essence, Rip and Kit (and all the characters in the comic) represent us to some extent. They are fans. We are fans. It’s a tale about cherishing the narrative art form.
BD: Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have provided a wonderful opportunity for creators of all mediums to reach new audiences. What encouraged you to utilize Kickstarter for the series, and what can supporters anticipate in terms of backer rewards once the campaign is live?
JV: Initially, we had reservations about embarking on the Kickstarter journey due to its inherent risks and the substantial time commitment needed for campaign management alongside the actual product development; however, we recognized the platform’s potential to connect with a broader audience. Given our transmedia approach and the intent to offer additional merchandise, it seemed natural to transform them into enticing rewards.
As mentioned earlier, I think our rewards are really cool. We’ve got the CD soundtrack and latex mask, along with PVC Velcro patches, prints, variant covers, t-shirts, a unique opportunity to be drawn into issue 2, and more. Each reward was meticulously crafted with considerable thought and passion, not hastily thrown together. I’ve invested as much effort into their development as I have into the comic itself, and I hope it reflects in the quality. I’m excited to see which rewards resonate most with people.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
JV: Beyond the forthcoming True Believers installments, I have a multitude of projects in the works, but I can’t say much about them just yet. These encompass a comic book linked to an upcoming video game franchise, another comic associated with a well-known haunted attraction in Colorado, a horror novella, a cyberpunk novella, and a compilation of short stories, all scheduled for publication in 2024!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about True Believers?
JV: First, thanks for reading! If you have a penchant for comics, cosplay, horror, and/or slashers, I think there’s a good chance True Believers might be for you. I’d love for you to check out our Kickstarter page and all the awesome rewards we have in store. We’d love to have your support!